SACRAMENTO – (Tuesday, April 19, 2016) – Human trafficking legislation by
California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) that would increase
penalties for those attempting to purchase sex passed the Assembly Committee on
Public Safety on a bipartisan 6-0 vote.
Under Assembly Bill 1708, California would, for the first time, treat the purchasing and
selling of sex as different crimes, allowing for different penalties. This fundamental
change allows a wide range of changes to be made which both improve protections for
trafficking victims and create stronger deterrents for purchasers who sustain the market
for sex trafficking. AB 1708 would increasing penalties for purchasers of sex who drive
demand for exploitation, requiring a person who sought to procure or did procure
sexual services to spend at least 72 hours in jail in addition to paying a minimum fine of
$1,000 to fund victim services. Additionally, the bill would increase penalties for sex
trafficking at or near a school, adding an additional year in state prison to a felony
conviction for trafficking if the victim was a minor and the activities took place at or
near a school.
“The longer we avoid treating the purchase of sex as a serious crime with serious
repercussions, the longer we send the signal that encourages the ongoing recruitment
and trafficking of young people in every community across the state,” said Gonzalez.
“Every one of the trafficking victims is someone’s daughter or son, and we cannot
continue to stand by and treat the purchasing of sex with a trafficking victim as a
Testimony at the hearing was provided by Summer Stephan, Chief Deputy District
Attorney in San Diego and Co-Chair of the California District Attorneys Association
Human Trafficking Committee, and Dr. Jamie Gates, a sociology professor at Point
Loma Nazarene University and the co-chair for research and data of the San Diego
Regional Human Trafficking & CSEC Advisory Council.
Gates’ recently completed study of sex trafficking in San Diego has brought long-
overdue attention to the crisis. An expansive recent study into the underground sex
industry in San Diego County estimated more than 11,000 sex trafficking
victims/survivors each year in San Diego County with an average entry age of 15 years
old. It further found that 42 percent of first-time prostitution arrests were actually
instances of sex trafficking, and estimated the industry generated $810 million in annual
revenue regionally, involving more than 100 area gangs.
“Our research has revealed in interviews with traffickers and sex trafficking facilitators
that it is easy to find buyers from all walks of life, any day or night of the week,” Gates
said. “Most of the facilitators in our sample argue that they are simply business partners
or security guards, and that they are only supplying what the vast, lucrative market
demands. This critical point has helped inform our policy suggestions, including having
stronger policies addressing demand.”
The bill is supported by the California District Attorneys Association, County of San
Diego, Grossmont Union High School District, State Coalition of Probation Organizations
(SCOPO) and the District Attorney’s Offices of Alameda and San Diego Counties.
For more information on AB 1708 or to interview Assemblywoman Gonzalez,
contact Evan McLaughlin at (916) 319-2080 or (619) 850-2790.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez serves as Chair of the Assembly
Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Select Committee on Women in
the Workplace and represents the 80th Assembly District, which includes
Chula Vista, National City and the San Diego neighborhoods of City Heights,
Barrio Logan, Paradise Hills, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. For more
information, visit http://asmdc.org/members/a80/.